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Idaho Enterprise

A Night at the Haunted Elementary?

Readers may recall that last year’s Halloween edition of The Enterprise carried a story on a possible Bigfoot sighting near Weston canyon.  In the year since, the story has been the most frequently asked about in our offices here, without question.  In what we hope may become something of a yearly trend, we decided to seek out another seasonally appropriate story for this year.  After asking around about possible supernatural stories people in town are familiar with, the resounding winner of the most commonly cited story was the haunted elementary school.

There are other potentially haunted places around the valley, of course.  Both two-mile and four-mile were mentioned as possible locations for the otherworldly, though we were strongly cautioned to avoid them after midnight.  It has also become very cold outside at night, which affected our decision to try the city’s top claim for paranormal activity—Malad Elementary.

Built in the early 50s, the school has seen a lot of history in its time.  There are no recorded deaths at the school over the time that one might imagine would lead to a haunting, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of stories about what people may have experienced there in the meantime.  

With the gracious permission of Principal McIntyre and Superintendent Abrams, a small group of us was allowed to spend the witching hours inside the school last week to see what we could see.

“Are you going to stay and investigate with us?”  I asked Principal McIntyre.  “Absolutely not,” she said.  “First, because I don’t like staying here at night.  Second, this is basically my Friday.  Have fun, and watch out for the red-headed girl in a white dress!”

Among our crew—owner and publisher of the Enterprise Bryan Scott, employees Cambrie Christophersen, Sherrie Wise, and her daughters Bailey and Kelsey—everyone but me was familiar with stories of this elusive girl in white.  Throughout town, an informal survey of locals makes it clear that the story is very widespread.  A number of current and former school employees who wished to remain off the record reported hearing unexplainable noises, seeing unexplainable images on the school’s cameras, and even directly seeing shapes that may or may not have been ghostly.  Some staff allegedly refuse to go in certain areas after dark, or stay in the building alone.

There are also persistent rumors of an “old man” figure who walks the halls at night.  The old man has reportedly been seen on the school’s security cameras more than once, though there is no recorded evidence of the sightings.  The lack of evidence has certainty not dissuaded the firm believers.  “It’s one of the things I heard about pretty soon after I got here,” Superintendent Jon Abrams remarked.  “Who knows?  There could be something up there.”

We started our trek by getting the lay of the land, so to speak.  There’s no denying that after hours the school is full of odd sights and sounds.  Several generations of construction have created a network of water and heating pipes that issue forth noises seemingly at random.  A constant clanking can be heard outside the auditorium area, presumably from the old mechanical equipment in the school’s labyrinthian basement, though our less skeptical members were fairly convinced the origin was less earthly.

We committed to making our exploration with flashlights and phones only.  Many of the most dramatic startles came from unexpected lights turning themselves on as a result of motion sensors.  There is a history of people reporting having driven by the school late at night and seeing lights on in parts of the school where no one should have been.  Other than folks like ourselves (which seems unlikely) or the movements of cleaning crew (which seems much less unlikely) the lights did at times seem a bit touchy.  Whether a ghost might have enough substance to trigger one was not something we were able to test.  Whether an animal like a cat who had wandered in may have been able to set off the lights was also not an experiment we were able to put into effect, as we had not thought to bring a cat with us.

There are certainly some areas of the school that would have been frightening in the bright sun of a friendly day.  Some classrooms which had apparently in the past been used as kindergarten and Alternative school rooms on the west side of the building have now become storage areas.  While storage itself is not especially frightening, when the storage includes old Halloween decorations and demonstration dolls from health care classes the effect can be more than alarming in the feeble incantation of a flashlight.  The basement is maybe not the stuff of nightmares, but it certainly isn’t the stuff of daydreams.  One of the basement areas appears to contain lockers, old football equipment, and a chalkboard, alongside heavy equipment, old notebooks, and assorted tokens of times long gone.  

Regardless of their sometimes spooky aspect, the sights all had pretty ready logical explanations.

Noises, on the other hand, were much less explicable.  Outside the fairly constant and sometimes startling mechanical noises in the building, the electronic thrum of the giant wall-mounted routers along the halls, and the ever-present hiss of the heating system, there were noises that we agreed as a team we had no good explanation for.  Cambrie, Bailey, and Kelsey all reported hearing the sound of a chair moving in a distant hallway.  There was a certain amount of discussion among them as to whether it was scraping, being pulled, or something else, but it was agreed by all to have been…something.

Numerous attempts at communicating with any available spirits netted mixed results.  Bailey instructed us on a means of using a flashlight as a sounding board for any free floating apparitions.  By balancing a mag light between the on and off positions on the floor, the light can allegedly be used by a spirit to respond to questions.  On the balance, our attempts were not successful.  However, there was one distinct incident when the flashlight lit up at the same time as a loud knocking was heard at the back door of the stage area after a question to any potential visitors.  Some argument about what exactly had happened were undertaken, but it was finally assigned to the “maybe” pile.

The most provocative incident of the night happened, as you might expect, almost immediately after midnight.  Sitting in the auditorium in the dark, the girls emphatically agreed that they had seen a shadowy shape ascend the stairway under the emergency lighting.  Although it was agreed that Bryan had gone to look for a bathroom around the same time, there was enough of a gap in the timeline that it also made the “maybe” pile.

While we did not end up with any definitive proof of the afterlife, the red-headed girl in a white dress, the old man, or any else of the extra-normal variety, we did all come away with a strong understanding of why no one wants to stay in the building overnight.  As we were deciding whether to call it a night, the clear sound of a chair scraping across a distant floor cut through the auditorium.  And that’s when we left.